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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

May 14, 2021


This week we explore how showing the right amount of emotion can improve the impact you have on others and their willingness to invest in your ideas.


Hello and welcome to episode 115 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. In this episode we’re exploring eight steps to effective delegation.

There are a whole host of reasons why people don’t delegate. Perhaps they are worried about quality of the results. Or they just don’t have the time to delegate. Many have had bad experiences with delegation going wrong in the past. However, effective delegation is at the core of great leadership. The rate we delegate sets the pace at which we progress.

Let’s start by with five initial questions to answer before you even start delegating:

  1. Does it need to be done? Organisations are generally great at starting new things and terrible at shutting down old things. So before you even delegate, consider whether you can eliminate the task altogether.

  2. Does it need to be done by me? There are some things which you can’t fully delegate. This can include financial approval limits or performance management accountabilities. But, truth be told, you can probably delegate more responsibilities than you expect.

  3. Does someone else have capacity? If there is no one with capacity to delegate to, then you either need to free up capacity or keep doing it yourself. Rather than just stopping here, I encourage you to work with each of your people to make sure they are focusing on the right things and have the resources they need to be efficient. This might just free up the capacity that you need to delegate.

  4. Does someone else have capability? It could be that no one in your team currently has the skills required to take on the accountability you’re seeking to delegate. That’s not necessarily a reason to stop, but rather speaks to the fifth initial question.

  5. Do I have the capacity to develop their capability? You may think you don’t have sufficient time to train someone up to your standard. But, by way of example, let’s take an accountability that you currently invest 30 minutes a week into. Across a year that is around 24 hours. So, even if it takes you an entire day of concerted effort to train that person up and review their work, you’re still a full two days ahead in the first year, and then three days ahead every subsequent year. Delegation is an investment.

So hopefully you’ve worked through these initial questions and you’re still keen to delegate. Here are eight simple steps to follow to make that delegation work as well as possible.

  1. Match their interests. Delegation is so much more effective if you match the interests of the person you are delegating to. Help them to answer “why me?” when you delegate. Perhaps the new accountability aligns with their development plan. Or perhaps you’ve noticed a skill that they can apply in a new way. Whatever it is, help the person to see how this opportunity aligns with their interests.

  2. Detail the desired outcomes. It’s really helpful for people to see clearly what you’re after as an end result. That could mean providing an example of a report or other output. Or, if it’s delegating attendance at a meeting, you might invite that person along to a few meetings first with you so they can see what is expected.

  3. Outline why this work matters. People really appreciate knowing what their work is contributing to. Understanding the broader purpose of what you are delegating also helps them to make better decisions about their approach to the new accountability.

  4. Detail the support available and check-in points. Delegation requires support. One of the traps I fell into when first delegating work was not setting up check-in points. As a result, a week goes by, I haven’t heard anything about how things are progressing, so I drop by the person’s desk to see how it is going. Then a week later I do the same thing again. The problem being that checking in that way feels a lot like micro-management and a lack of trust. How different it is to establish check-in points up front in consultation with the person you’re delegating to. Then the check-ins don’t feel like micro-management, rather they feel like support.

  5. Outline the constraints. A risk when we delegate is that the person tries to achieve an outcome exactly the same way we did it. Often the person being delegated to feels like there are more constraints on the activity than there actually are. Occasionally people may not recognise an actual constraint and step outside of what is possible. Either way, we need to let people know what limits are in place.

  6. Review what has been agreed. When you ask someone “do you have any questions?”, 99% of the time they will say “no” even if they do have questions. Why? Because they are concerned that having a question might reflect badly on them or badly on you. Badly on them because they clearly didn’t understand, and badly on you because you didn’t explain it well enough. So they just say “no - no questions here”. Instead, you could ask “what questions to you have?”. That sets an expectation that they will have questions. Then ask them to describe what it is that they are delivering in their own words - not as a test, but rather to confirm clarity all round.

  7. Provide direction, encouragement and check-in as agreed. Basically, follow through on what you said you would do. A great way to do this is simply to set aside 15 minutes each week at a particular time to catch up about what has been delegated. That way the person can store up any questions or concerns. Maybe you don’t need the catch up every time, but it is really helpful for the person when they do need it.

  8. Review learnings and celebrate success. People often underestimate just how much they have learned and developed. So when we delegate, it is great to celebrate the person successfully taking on that new responsibility.

I hope you found that approach to delegation helpful. All the steps are detailed in the show notes which you can access at our website Leadership.Today - and while you are there, why not sign up for our upcoming webinar called Delegation Without the Drama on the 27th or 28th of May depending on where you are in the world. There’s a link to register in the show notes. Have a great week.